Disney World is relaxing some of its face mask rules in outdoor spaces, according to an email sent to guests on Wednesday.
In the email obtained by Theme Park Tribune, Disney said, “Since May, face coverings have been optional for guests in outdoor common areas, and beginning Thursday, August 19, face coverings will also be optional for guests in outdoor attractions, outdoor queues and outdoor theaters at Walt Disney World Resort.”
Before this change, guests were required to wear masks throughout outdoor attractions from the moment they entered the queue until they were back in an outdoor common area.
The delta variant of COVID-19 causing record hospitalizations in Florida is more transmissible than other strains, but it’s not clear yet whether that translates to more transmission outdoors. Health experts have cautioned against going maskless in crowded outdoor environments, however.
“We know that the level of virus (in you) is going to be extremely high if you have the delta variant,” Krutika Kuppalli, an infectious disease expert at the Medical University of South Carolina, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “If people are going to sports events or concerts or things like that, they may feel safe because it’s outdoors, but an outdoor venue where you’re all crammed in with each other is not necessarily going to be a safe event.”
The vast majority of severe COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Florida are occuring in the unvaccinated.
“The rate of transmission is such that anyone who is unvaccinated should expect to get this disease,” Dr. Raul Pino, director of the Florida Department of Health in Orange County, said on Monday.
The new Disney policy does not change the resort’s rules requiring face masks in indoor spaces. All guests ages 2 and up must still wear face coverings in indoor spaces, including all indoor attractions and queues, as well as on Disney transportation, regardless of whether they’re fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Disney World’s reversion to an indoor mask mandate is just one impact that the delta variant is having on theme parks. WDW News Today reported Tuesday that hotel occupancy at Disney World is dropping due to COVID-related cancellations.
Los Angeles County recently issued an order requiring everyone to wear masks at outdoor events with more than 10,000 people. However, the order did not explicitly mention theme parks, and both Universal Studios Hollywood and Six Flags Magic Mountain told Theme Park Tribune that the parks are not making any changes to their current mask policies.